Sing Hallelujah!

Reading time 7 minutes


The builders have left the building – sing hallelujah, ring out the bells and fa la la la la!! We are finally free to inhabit our house without fear of tripping over the industrial cling film on the carpet or taking chunks out of our thighs on rusty screws. There will be no more stained polystyrene cups littering the garden or fag buts sticking out of plant pots; no more orange slurry poured over the herbs or mysterious liquids left festering in the watering can (don’t ask). We can, at last, restore order where there was chaos, put something down on a surface without it getting lagged in dust and, most excitingly, deck the halls with boughs of holly.


Terrain metal Christmas wreath, The Watch House, December 2016


Although there is still extensive painting and decorating to be done, the construction work is finished as far as finances will allow for the foreseeable future. I am amazed at how integrated the house already feels, helped by ensuring details such as picture rails and toggle light switches are consistent throughout. Nevertheless I am still walking out of new rooms this weekend and feeling faintly disorientated. It is curious having windows at the back of the house, where once there was a solid, four-storey flint wall.


Fireplace with plants, The Watch House, December 2016


The library is as lovely as I hoped it would be. Ignoring the unpainted MDF and the whiff of new carpet (which smells strongly of cow pats), the room feels cosy, elegant and intimate. I am very relieved that Him Indoors talked me into keeping our temporary Ikea sofas (they have been temporary for nearly 11 years now) as not only can we not afford new ones, but they are also exactly the correct size for the room. Had I ordered new sofas, I’d have made the mistake of choosing much bigger ones which would not have suited the room. Until the decorators have been, my books must remain in stalagmitic formations rising from every free surface in the house. This does make it challenging when trying to find a spot to put one’s gin and tonic down. I may be forced to switch to sherry, which can be served in a narrower glass.


Garden room, The Watch House, December 2016


Gorgeous as the library is, my favourite new room at the moment is the garden room. It’s not remotely complete – the walls are crudely rendered or plaster-boarded and the original scuffed red tiles are still on the floor – but it is filled with a lovely light, especially in the early afternoon when the sun creeps around the corner and sets the toffee-coloured render a glow. It will be our gin and tonic spot and will therefore be free of literary monoliths. Due to an unfortunate mix up, the beautiful fire surround created by the carpenters had to be removed and will eventually be replaced by something less flammable. I could not bring myself to chuck it away, so, whilst we ponder a permanent home for it, I have employed it as a log-store-cum-mantelpiece to display some of my recent purchases from New York and The Netherlands. A renovated step-ladder that I picked up in the summer has been adorned with obligatory succulents, a delicate metal fern frond and a bunch of faux ivy stems. Real ivy lasts no time at all after cutting, so I don’t mind faking it in this instance.




Our main tree will not be decorated until Him Indoors gets home from work on Friday. In the meantime I succumbed to the charms of a 9ft Fraser – not an abnormally tall Scotsman, but a zestily scented fir with short, glossy, dark-green needles. I am very taken with its strong, upswept branches, which hold decorations perfectly. When cleaning a chest of drawers in one of our spare bedrooms I discovered a selection of green and gold baubles purchased in Germany many years ago. I decided to use these old friends as the backbone for a ‘magical nature’ theme. Using the tiny glass bottles I purchased at Oogenlust, I added little clusters of rose hips, some handsome looking pheasants and laser-cut metal leaves I found at Crate and Barrel. I wasn’t sure about the flashes of red at first, but they do make the tree very festive.


Christmas tree decorations, The Watch House, December 2016,


Just three more days of work now, followed by the reinstatement of the dining room and morning room, and some vital titivation out in the garden. Then I can relax. My tranquil state will be short-lived, if it materializes at all, for my niece and sister will be arriving on Christmas Eve.

Hoping all your festive preparations are progressing as planned. TFG.


Pheasant Christmas decoration, The Watch House, December 2016

Categories: Christmas, Floral Art, Flowers, Foliage, Photography, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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27 comments On "Sing Hallelujah!"

  1. Oh my goodness me. Your garden room is divine. I love it just as it is. Beautiful and rustic. You do have exquisite taste, Mr Christmas! Wishing you a very happy one.

    1. Thanks Janna. I don’t know about exquisite taste, but I do have a lot of ‘stuff’ that I can now arrange attractively in my new rooms. I am finally able to retro-justify so many dubious purchases! Have a brilliant Christmas and let’s catch up properly in the New Year. Dan

    1. Oh goodness! I am thinking!! Friends of ours brought their dog at the weekend and he dashed around the house like a mad thing. I am expecting Martha to do likewise. But it will be excellent for hide and seek. As for the career advice, I think you could be on to something ๐Ÿ˜‰. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas Judy. Dan

  2. What a super read! I’ve been following the trials and tribulations of your renovations with great interest. It all sounds and looks delightfully festive in a lovely simple, natural way despite (or perhaps because of) the remnants of plasterboarded walls and dusty red floor tiles. Enjoy those G&Ts in your Garden Room; you certainly deserve them.

    1. Thank you Alison. Almost there with the works now. One final push after New Year and then we are done. I’m so happy you like the look of the garden room. I spent some ‘me time’ styling it up with all the bits and bobs I’d been accumulating for that very purpose. The red boots were a rash purchase from Cole Haan many years ago. They don’t get worn often but look brilliant. Happy Christmas to you. Dan

  3. What dusty red old tiles??? I just love them, if it is going to be a garden room they are just perfect. Oh, what a change Dan, I am so happy it worked out before Christmas, yes you can relax now so I am wishing you and all dear to you a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the 2017. Going to be a very hot one here in Western Australia so no baking, no roasting, a fusion of cold European and spicy Thai cold salads for this household. Keep well and happy.

    1. I wonder if it’s too late to hop on a plane and join you for your Christmas buffet? It sounds delicious Barbara. A colleague flew out to Sydney on Wednesday, but she mentioned it was cooler and cloudier there at the moment. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you for all your comments and words of encouragement throughout 2016. They have kept me going ๐Ÿค“

  4. I second Janna and Barbara, the patina of those red tiles is devine. The mantle makes a fabulous feature too. Make haste slowly when decorating this room Dan…remember the Ikea couches.

    1. I will Suzanne. I was only saying to Him Indoors last night that we might want to live with it a bit before we do too much. This might be a necessity anyway as our coffers are almost empty. That said, the decorator is booked for January, so colour wise we need to make up our minds over the holidays.

  5. Really glad for you it all came together just in time before Christmas! So enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!
    As for the IKEA sofas: in my experience nothing is as permanent as a temporary solution. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing: I agree with everyone above on the charms of the garden room (and your flair for decorating it. I especially love the little glass bottles with rose hips in!). But why not make a virtue out of the book stalagmites? If you can’t place a gin & tonic on them anymore without it toppling over, you know you are too drunk/ in the right state for a great party (delete as appropriate…)! (You might want to cover the book piles before the game, though.) Merry Christmas to you both!!

    1. Thanks for the idea. I might try it with books, but my experience with magazines (from which I have also formed multiple stalagmites) is that they are terribly slippy and one is libel to end up with wet slippers as a result ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. Ah, if all else fails, you still have your red boots ๐Ÿ˜‰ ! But perhaps you should ask Father Christmas – or Him Indoors – for a dumb waiter? Just in case… Merry Christmas!

  6. Love the garden room, the little glass flasks / bottle ( I think I’ll copy your idea ), the red boots, the tiles, the stephanotis, the mantle, the strelitzia and its green leaves ๐Ÿ™‚
    I am happy with you, Dan. Enjoy your new part(s) of the house, take your time, sit down with Him Indoors by your side and contemplate life over your Christmas dinner with a big glass of wine, a roaring fire and a bit of snow outside. Have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and yours.

    1. Thank you Paul for your lovely Christmas message. I hope you have a brilliant Christmas too. I doubt we will get any snow here, but the rest can be arranged ๐Ÿค“. That strelizia was a rescue from our local garden centre and has 5 or 6 very promising buds on it. I hope they come out in the New Year to cheer me up when the Christmas decorations come down. Best Wishes. Dan

      1. I am sure your strelitzia is very grateful that you rescued “her” and will repay you with beautiful flowers. (I hope to see them here). I have never tried to grow that plant before, but it is absolutely amazing with its “paradise bird”-like flowers.

        We are going to celebrate a family Christmas at our home – my sister and brother and mother-in-law, as well as my brother-in-law are coming for Christmas dinner, which is on Christmas Eve in Poland. On Christmas Day ( December 25 ) we are having some friends for coffee and the next day ( Boxing Day) my wife Karolina and I are going to visit our friends. It will be a typical and merry Christmas for us.
        Once more a wonderful Christmas time for you and yours ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Just wanted to thank you for the immense pleasure and interest I get from your posts. I’m almost as delighted as you are at the thought of you moving into the new part of the house! I hope you and Him Indoors have a wonderful Christmas revelling in the new spaces, and the new year brings you much more to enjoy both inside and out.


    Sent from my iPad


    1. Thanks Susan. It’s so heartwarming to hear that you enjoy my posts. I am hoping Christmas and New Year will be the time when I get over the trauma of the build and start to enjoy what’s been created. And the garden would certainly benefit from some TLC. Thankfully it’s low/no maintenance in the winter. A very Happy Christmas to you and yours. Dan

    1. I love the look of the red boots, but they are, and have always been, rather painful to wear. The only shoes I have ever bought that I haven’t really worn … and I’ve bought a lot of shoes in my time!

  8. Hi Mr Cooper! Hope you are well. Iโ€™ll start off by apologising; Iโ€™m afraid I do not know much about gardening, however I found this blog through researching your other job at John Lewis. I am passionate about getting into the world of Buying and it is my dream to one day work at JL (I am not afraid of hard work!) Do you have any advice as to how I could go about this? I am in my final year of a French and Spanish degree at Warwick University but am willing to do unpaid work experience etc to get my foot in the door. Thanks in advance, Natalie

    P.S. I figured if you donโ€™t ask, you donโ€™t get soโ€ฆ If you need someone to help you out next year, let me know

  9. It’s looking wonderful Dan and when completely finished it will be outstanding! Wishing you and him indoors a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year! Thanks for all your posts through 2016 too!

    1. Thanks Anne. Hope you have a super day today I am so thrilled with the garden room, even in its unfinished state. It’s already filled with the scent of paperwhite narcissi and Arabian jasmine. So much potential ๐Ÿ™‚

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